Competition for leisure time is intense. The arts compete with
for-profit entertainment, and even more with recreation. When the kids
have an intense schedule of organized sports, how can parents fit in
culture? People are working longer hours, and with new technology,
there are many opportunities to hear music, read, pursue hobbies and
interests with like-minded souls on the internet, and otherwise
“timeshift” leisure to the hours available – rather than adjust your
schedule to the concert hall or museum.
Audience tastes have shifted, too. People want more active
participation, and a more social context. If the arts are cool, people
come. If they are perceived as stuffy, intimidating, or too formal,
they opt out.
The result of these factors, in many cultural institutions, is a
loss of attendance and audience. The Collective Voice initiative of
the Cultural Alliance is a program to counter this trend. We are
studying recent audience participation and community research, both in
our region and nationally, to help our member organizations understand
what drives audience decisions. In fall 2007 we will hold a series of
seminars to explore these issues and propose creative new approaches.
In preparation for those seminars, we are gathering data about how we
market the arts: how we promote, how much we spend, and where we put
those dollars. We are also gathering information about the
exhibitions, premieres, and other cultural programs that are planned
for the next several years.
In the seminars, we will compare our current practices to the
research. Are we producing the kinds of experiences audiences want?
Are we promoting those programs in the right way, for the audiences we
are trying to reach? The answers to those questions will challenge
individual arts organizations to change the way they plan and promote
their programs, and give them tools to make their own improvements.
Our goal is to focus on the needs of the community – to listen to our
The Cultural Alliance will also use this information to identify
opportunities for collaboration – creating programming focus plans
called Cultural Destinations. A Cultural Destination might be a group
of arts organizations in a particular geographic area, or arts programs
that interpret a single theme, or which occur in a particular season.
We will organize a collaboration to plan and promote each Cultural
Destination, applying the research, and working together to maximize
reach and impact.
The Collective Voice initiative will help arts organizations, large
and small, to tune their programming to serve our region better – to
work together to reach people and do what we do best, uplift every day
life to something extraordinary. The high-tech world is often
low-touch: the arts offer experiences that are authentic, engaging,
social, thought-provoking, and real. Something you just can’t get any